iPhone 5S review

Faster, improved camera and a clever fingerprint reader. But is it starting to show its age?

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Now we're getting onto something that's really rather special: the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5S. You'll find it on the new iPad Air 2, and obviously the most recent iPhones, and it gives them a whole new level of functionality – it's much harder to enter a passcode on two-handed devices.

Touch ID is a system that came as something of a surprise with the iPhone 5S, as when the device launched in September 2013, fingerprint scanning was relatively written off as being something that was just too cumbersome to implement.

Just look back at the Motorola Atrix with its back-mounted sensor… that didn't work at all.

Well, that's not true with the Touch ID sensor on iPhone. It's phenomenal in the way it works, making it possible to have a phone that is as secure as having a passcode, but without the irritation of having to enter it a million times a day.

iPhone 5S review

Press the home button and let your finger rest there, and the phone just opens itself up. It's hard to explain just how cool the motion feels.

Yes, it's not 'properly' secure – there's still a passcode right there for those that don't want to use the fingerprint scanner, and if someone reads that over your shoulder they'll still be able to steal your phone and get in.

This should explain the insanity that some are peddling, such as how robbers will be cutting off fingers or forcing users to unlock the phone. Firstly, the sensor is capacitive and therefore needs an actual, alive, finger to use it.

Secondly: this isn't a way of securing national secrets. If someone is that desperate to get into your phone, there are myriad ways. But if you want to avoid pecking out a passcode time and time again, this is a brilliant method of doing it.

iPhone 5S review

Moreover, you can use Touch ID to replace your iTunes password. This is an excellent way of not having to pop in your special word over and over again when you're buying items or downloading certain apps. It might only save a few seconds, but more importantly than that, it's just so goshdarn cool that I can't help but love to do it.

And on the point of security, Apple may have pushed that element further than it needed to – but that should give consumers decent peace of mind.

The Touch ID sensor communicates directly with the stored fingerprint on the A7 chip, and not even the rest of the phone can see it.

This means your fingerprint won't get backed up to iCloud and accidentally shared with the world. But you won't be able to use different digits to open other apps, which would have been awesome from the lock screen.

iPhone 5S review

Imagine being able to press a single digit to the phone to unlock it… okay, that's here now. But then press a different finger and open the music player, and a third will take you straight to your Pocket reader.

It would be an amazing way to do things and show that the iPhone is more built around the user – however, I suspect that Apple is erring on the side of security here, and that's not a bad thing at all.

The system was opened up to third-party developers with iOS 8, so every app can take advantage of the Touch ID functionality – Dropbox is one that's done so.

iPhone 5S review

In terms of setting up your finger recognition, there's nothing to it: press your digit up and down on the sensor and the phone will buzz every time it learns your fingerprint. And not only that, but you're then asked to show the edges of your finger to get a larger image of the print, giving more accuracy.

I never really found a problem with the accuracy of the iPhone 5S' Touch ID sensor, but it appears that some people did. Apple reckons it's managed to improve that somewhat with successive iOS releases, meaning it won't 'forget' your fingerprint as easily as before.

In practice you can turn your finger or thumb any way you like on the button and it will still register just the same – there are some mis-scans, but on the whole it's really rather excellent and accurate. It's not 100% accurate all the time, which can grate.

But compare it to the same trick Samsung has tried to employ on its Galaxy phones, which need a swipe, and you'll see how hard it is to implement a system that's even this good – plus the iPhone 6/6S and 6 Plus/6S Plus upgrades feel even more accurate, and come with Apple Pay to boot.


Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
Wireless LANYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory64 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotNo
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyiPhone 5s
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1700, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Phone StyleBar
Operating SystemiOS
Brand NameApple
Battery Talk Time10 Hour
Screen Size10.2 cm (4")
Screen Resolution1136 x 640
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)112 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerApple
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Backlight TechnologyLED
Operating System VersioniOS 7
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, iMessage
Pixel Density326 ppi
Front Camera Resolution1.2 Megapixel
Height123.7 mm
Width58.7 mm
Depth7.6 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time250 Hour
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product NameiPhone 5s Smartphone
Processor Speed1.70 GHz
Product LineiPhone 5s
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Fingerprint Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberMF359X/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

Unrealized until now. Indispensable from now on.

A chip with 64-bit architecture. A fingerprint identity sensor. A better, faster camera. And an operating system built specifically for 64-bit. Any one of these features in a smartphone would make it ahead of its time. All of these features in a smartphone make it an iPhone that's definitely ahead of its time.

The gold standard. Also available in silver and gray.

iPhone 5s is precision crafted down to the micron. And it's evident throughout. The beautiful aluminum housing. The sleekness of metal and glass. Sapphire crystal in the Home button. And more sapphire crystal protecting the iSight camera. Design and construction of this level is unmatched. As a result, iPhone 5s looks and feels unbelievably thin and light. And it's available in three elegant expressions: gold, silver, and space gray.

Package Contents
  • iPhone 5s Smartphone
  • EarPods with Remote and Mic
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • 5W USB Power Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year